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Poster: Purple Gel Date: Oct 28, 2006 4:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Why we are Deadheads

I enjoyed the article that Liamfinnegan turned us on to in the earlier post "tales from the crypt XXXCMVII". This is a very interesting article and the author certainly has some great insight and observations about the Grateful Dead songs, lyrics and concert experience. I think that in one respect, he is way off base and I do wish to take issue with one assertion that is made in this article,:

(Talking about the cheers after a jam and the return to lyrics)
"The audience cheers at these points because the return of the melody and therefore the lyrics means a return to the familiar, to the predictable and understandable after long forays into the unknown."

I think the author does not fully understand the psyche of the Deadhead (or at least those of us who couldn't, and still can't get enough). Maybe it's just me, but one of the main reasons I came back again and again (and again and again.......) was not for the familiarity or the predictability of the melody/lyrics but for those special times that they would venture even further into the unknown than usual. Although, technically, every version was different, most tunes had a somewhat standard form to it. The biggest and most enthusiastic fan reactions occured after the band had strayed, even minimally, from the standard versions. As we all know these moments did not occur every show, and sometimes they just didn't work, yet even then they were appreciated and rewarded by the fans if only because the effort was made to push the envelope. Anyone who attended a show or listens to good audience recordings knows that the cheering is especially intense in those transition moments when the band has really put their hearts and emotions into those jams. To me, the cheering is not so much joy at the return to the familiar, as much as an appreciation of the trip into the unknown and encouragement to take those risks again, the more unfamiliar the journey, it seems to me, the bigger the cheer and payoff. I suppose the author could interpret this as just more joy at being returned to Terra Firma, but I believe it is more likely gratitude for the just completed journey.

IMO this is one reason why we can have discussions here ad nauseum about the merits or deficinecies of many different Dark Stars, Playing In The Bands, Scarlet > Fires etc. Often it boils down to a section of the jam that was "special" (or unfamiliar), a particular music passage by Jerry or Brent, tasty, unique licks from Bobby, a particularly inventive Bass line from Phil, or best of all when the whole band seemed to just take off together into uncharted territory. It is much rarer for us to love a version solely because of the lyrics or the way it was sung. It is a rare Deadhead that can pinpoint one or two favorites of many of these "jam' songs. We can dscuss literally dozens of versions of various jams and love each one for different reasons. I also don't see a lot of discussion about the merits of a particular Mama Tried, Johhny B Goode, Might As Well or Don't Ease or any number of songs (mostly, but certainly not exclusively, 1st set or encores). The best evidence that it was the journey and not the return we loved is songs like Lovelight and NFA that made a transition from great jam tunes (Lovelight with Pig, and NFA before the mid 80's) to fairly standard straight ahead formula rock. When Deadheads discuss their favorites or the most intense of these tunes the later versions are almost never reffered to, except to bemoan their later demise.

This is one of the many reasons why so many people just don't get us. To them a song is a song and they can't appreciate the intricate and often barely perceptible details that can literally send one of us into ecstasy. It's also why there are so many people (I'm sure we all have friends like this) who genuinely like the Dead and attended a number of shows, yet still skip past The Other One or Bird Song in favor of Truckin, Touch of Grey, Bertha or any other number of the more straight forward songs and got bored during the "unknown" sections of a show (Space, extended exploratory jams etc).

Of course the songs were the frame that held the whole picture together and were the takeoff point of so may great journeys. Obviously we all became Deadheads for various reasons, and obviously we all love the songs and appreciate how special, intelligent and poetic the lyrics and imagery of those songs are, but I think there are certain other traits that bind many of us together. One of those traits that is so apparent to me is the love and appreciation of the "long strange trips" that were inherrent in such a high percentage of Dead shows. That's what brought us back so often and that's why we were cheering at the transition from the Jam back into the song.

Most folks certainly enjoy their travels but are happiest when they return home. Then there are those of us who just love the journey, who relish dicovering and experiencing new things and once we get home we can't wait to embark on the next journey. In the world of music fans many of these people are know by the name of DEADHEAD!!!

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Poster: HiRoller Date: Oct 28, 2006 7:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

I was just thinking about this the other day, not just with the Dead, but with almost any jam band. Most people aren't used to the longer jams that aren't as well structured as most music. I had one of my friends in my car with me the other day, and when we got in my CD was in the middle of a jam, and he was wondering how I could listen to something like that. I'm able to just start listening to a song during the middle of a jam without any introduction, but most people require at least some structure.

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Poster: Max Chorak Date: Oct 28, 2006 8:10pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

"""(Talking about the cheers after a jam and the return to lyrics)
"The audience cheers at these points because the return of the melody and therefore the lyrics means a return to the familiar, to the predictable and understandable after long forays into the unknown." """


I totally agree PurpleGel.. they audience applauds because of how stunning the jam was!

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Oct 28, 2006 7:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

Furthermore, I might add, that there is so very precious little of the "I wanna hold your hand" or other such juvenile love and lust involved with Dead lyrics. In fact, the word "love" is used less in Dead lyrics than probably any other contemporary published songwriting catalog.

Does this mean that the subject matter of "love" isn't covered? Of course not. It's just approached from a much more oblique perspective. Think Stella Blue or Must Have Been The Roses. Even Wharf Rat has it's romantic elements ala Barflies, but romantic nonetheless.

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Poster: OtimmytuckerO Date: Oct 28, 2006 4:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

not much time to respond...very well put though.

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Oct 28, 2006 6:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

One of the most overlooked reasons we exist is because, by God, we're Americans. Both Hunter and Barlow identify with the opening of the great American West, and while a lot of us dismiss these "cowboy" tunes, they speak to a generation brought up on the great Westerns of film and television. Only in "Loser" and "Me and My Uncle" a certain reality creeps in, making the them more adult and historically correct.

Like any well written novel, there is the space where we insert ourselves as the protagonist, identifying with the subject one on one. This life by proxy or identifying ourselves vicariously through the song isn't limited to the "cowboy" tunes, it's just that they seem to be most accessible. Most all of the lyrics are ambiguous enough to let us slip into character...



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Poster: blacklakelight Date: Oct 29, 2006 6:24am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

I've thought about this a lot. The Dead are, bar none, the quintessential American band, which has nothing to do with coming to your town, helping you party down, etc. Well, it did, but that was just part of it. As Earl pointed out, there are the Western themes, which tie in with the national yearning for exploration, expansion, and open spaces, and also the continual cycling through various timeless lyrical tropes that make up the foundation of American folk and blues music (dark hollers, chilly winds, wild geese, muddy waters). Then there is their formative period playing the Acid Tests, at least part responsible for the uncanny levels of psychomusical (?) communication between the band members, an ongoing extrastellar expedition largely explored in the improvisational tradition of jazz, another quintessentially American genre. And then of course there's Ken Kesey, creator of new American mythological figures surpassed in stature only by himself, navigator-champion of the psychedelic spaces, wressler, journeyor, farmer, prankster, artist. And then the tours, the lots, the gypsy scene and all that went with it, travelling the land and testing the waters. I like to say the Dead are like Huck Finn on acid, and when I say it all these things are what I mean.

(It's totally appropriate to stop me at any time and holler "St. Stephens").

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Poster: Purple Gel Date: Oct 28, 2006 7:30pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

I couldn't agree with you more, Earl, i have always viewed Hunter as the quintessential (there's that word again!!) American story teller with his songs about Rascals, Scoundrels, Outlaws, Gamblers and Ne'er-do-wells. These are all well told stories that anyone can relate to. Also I agree about the love songs, and would go further and say that those songs you mentioned and others delve far deeper into the emotions (often sorrowful) involved and don't approach the subject of of human relations from a teenage, sophomoric or glorified perspective (once again "I Wanna Hold your Hand"). Well said!!

This post was modified by Purple Gel on 2006-10-29 02:30:00

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Poster: cush11 Date: Oct 28, 2006 11:04pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

Maybe some of us were not applauding the "return to the familiar", but the journey that took us there? If you already touched on that, nevermind...

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Poster: RiverRat1492 Date: Oct 29, 2006 4:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

"""(Talking about the cheers after a jam and the return to lyrics)
"The audience cheers at these points because the return of the melody and therefore the lyrics means a return to the familiar, to the predictable and understandable after long forays into the unknown." """

All posts well said. But, come on guys, the author just doesn't get it. Probably too smart for his own good.

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Poster: elkdog Date: Oct 29, 2006 9:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why we are Deadheads

I think it's fairer to say that the author is one of those fans mentioned above who skips Bird Song, TOO, Dark Star, in favor of the tighter songs. There were certain cues, such as the perjorative mention of the "seemingly endless improvisation" in Dark Start that tipped me off toward this. The author probably was cheering for the return to familiarity, while the rest of us were celebrating the jam.

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